Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guest Post with Sheila Welch and Her New Book, Waiting to Forget

Today I am delighted to have Sheila Welsh as a guest on the blog. She writes and illustrates for children of all ages. Her story "The Holding-On Night," published in Cricket, won the International Reading Association's Short Story Award.

Sheila's new book, Waiting to Forget, (namelos Publishing) has  launched to rave reviews.  Kirkus Reviews says:

 T.J.'s authentic voice and the multilayered presentation of his memories, shifting between the waiting room and his past, make for a poignant, realistic tale of child-survivors.

Welcome, Sheila!

As an author who writes for children, I always enjoy interacting with my young audience through programs at bookstores, libraries, and schools. Now that I'm older and not quite so eager to drop everything and travel, I've been using Skype to make that vital connection with readers.
Although the technology for this visual and audible form of communication is amazing, it's not perfect, and I'd be lost without my husband, who's resident assistant for all things digital. Despite a few glitches in the screen image and the audio, Skype has made it possible for me to make five virtual appearances since the recent publication of my novel, WAITING TO FORGET.

Certain parts of a Skype visit are actually quite similar to one in person. An initial contact must be made between the host and the author. Arrangements and schedules have to be worked out and confirmed. Payment needs to be discussed and agreed upon. (Many authors do these virtual visits for free.) Both the author and the teacher or librarian need to prepare themselves and the students for the program.

There are some negative aspects of a Skype visit. The most obvious disadvantage is that the children miss out on the fun of meeting an author in person. Of course, if technical problems occur during the virtual visit, everyone is dissatisfied.

On the positive side, the advantages of Skype are obvious: no travel, no expenses for the author, low fees (if any) for the host to pay, and a chance for an author to do distant visits or a series of visits over an extended period of time.

In the past, I've traveled reasonable distances for all-day presentations, and I've done residencies of several weeks at a few nearby schools. Via Skype, I've spent an hour with a 'tween book club in California over 1500 miles from home. And I am currently involved in an on-going, in depth discussion of WAITING TO FORGET with a class of interested and perceptive sixth graders who live in Nebraska.

Sheila Kelly WelchIt's been exciting for me to meet these kids, listen to their comments, and answer their astute questions about my book. The main characters in WAITING TO FORGET are twelve-year-old T.J. and his eight-year-old sister, Angela. Most of the story is told in chronological flashbacks, beginning when T.J. is only five years old. Although I wanted to tell the story this way, I realized that defining the audience would be difficult. WAITING TO FORGET is about a serious subject, child neglect and abuse, yet the protagonist is very young. I was fairly certain that it would appeal to kids between ten and fourteen; it's been good to find these preteens so engrossed in the story.  I've worked with their enthusiastic teacher and the librarian at their public library to coordinate my visits.  The structure was already in place since this class has read other books as a group.  Once each week, the librarian reads aloud a chapter of the novel, and the students then read the next few chapters to they're ready for a discussion with me the following week.

I divided my book into five sections of four or five chapters.  For each section, I've sent questions to the teacher that are open-ended and intended to encourage the students to stretch a little beyond their comfort zone.  I've been surprised at some of their reactions.  They show a real un derstanding and empathy for the characters.  Some adult reviewers have been quite critical of the birth mother in my story.  She's a single parent who is irresponsible and consistently makes poor choices.  And yet, the sixth grade readers are willing to see that Celia, herself, may not have had a perfect childhood.  Like T.J., some of them are willing to give her a measure of love despite her faults.

What more can an author ask for?  I've located a group of readers who "get" my book, and I have a way to chat with them again and again as they read it.  The possibilities are unlimited.  Or, to say it another way, yes, the Sky (pe's) the limit!

Thank you, Sheila.  This was a pleasure, indeed.  Come back soon!


  1. I can't wait to read Sheila's book and I need to learn how to Skype!

  2. Yes, the book is wonderful, deep and shattering on several levels. I know you'll appreciate it.

    Thanks for the comment. Hope to see you soon!

  3. Hi, Nancy,

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to chat about my Skype visits. I met with the sixth graders yesterday, and they were pleased to learn that they'd been mentioned.

    Shannon, I thought I'd seen your name somewhere, and I'm looking forward to reading your namelos title.

  4. It was my pleasure to help promote such a wonderful book. All best wishes to you with it and with future writing!